Read Vampirates 4: Black Heart Online

Authors: Justin Somper

Tags: #Parenting, #Pirates, #Action & Adventure, #Vampires, #Juvenile Fiction, #Mothers, #Seafaring life, #Fantasy & Magic, #Fiction, #Family & Relationships, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Twins, #General, #Motherhood, #Horror, #Brothers and sisters

Vampirates 4: Black Heart (2 page)

BOOK: Vampirates 4: Black Heart
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It was strange, he thought, how he and his twin sister viewed the world so differently these days. He turned to look at her, lost in her own thoughts. She was sitting on the room's one chair. In the past, she would have curled her body into it like a little dormouse, her legs dangling over the side. Now she sat with her back straight, feet on the floor, and hands gently resting on her knees. Connor realized that he had left a girl at Pirate Academy and returned to find a young woman at Sanctuary. It hadn't been that long since he and Grace had last been together, but experience was changing her, just as it was changing him. They were both growing up. But were they also growing apart?

Connor knew that while this place made him feel almost physically sick and aching to get back to the open ocean and fresh sea air, Grace seemed utterly at home here among the Vampirates, their donors (the very idea of which made him decidedly nauseous), and their counselors.

Grace suddenly looked up, evidently realizing that he had been staring at her.

She looked at him inquiringly. "What are you thinking?" she asked.

Deciding not to share the full range of his thoughts with her, he asked instead, "How can you be so calm, so patient?"

Grace shrugged, settling deeper into the chair. "Maybe I'm just enjoying having my brother back. It's been quite a while."

At this, Connor sat down on the arm of the chair and reached out his hand to her. "It's good to see you, too, Grace. Not just good ... well, I don't have to say it, do I?"

"No," she smiled, squeezing his hand. "You don't have to say anything."

"This takes me back," Connor said. "Back to when we were kids in the lighthouse."

"It was only a few months ago," said Grace. "But it feels a lifetime away, doesn't it?"

He nodded. "Sometimes. I wonder -- do you ever just feel like you want to go back? Back home?"

"I do think about going back," she said. "At least, I think about the life we had there. You, and me, and Dad. But even though it wasn't that long ago, it feels like a dream. If we went back now, it wouldn't be the same. Dad wouldn't be there. The lighthouse would belong to someone else." She shivered. "To Lachlan Busby or whoever he decided to sell it to. There might even be a new lighthouse keeper and his or her family. I don't think I could bear to see that. Could you? It would be as if we were ghosts."

Connor's eyes narrowed with pain. "No, I suppose not. And I know what you mean. The life we had before we were shipwrecked does seem like a dream, doesn't it? But it wasn't. It was real. It was our home. These days, I don't know where home is." He shook his head. "I thought that the Diablo could be my new home. I suppose I wanted it to be -- and Molucco Wrathe to be some kind of father figure. But I was kidding myself."

"You have good friends there, though," Grace said. "Bart and Cate. Others, too. I know you're angry with Molucco for the way he treated you, but maybe that is where you're meant to be."

"I didn't expect to hear you say that! Molucco Wrathe was never your favorite person."

"No," Grace agreed. The swaggering pirate captain had always been rather too smug and self-satisfied for her liking. "But what's right for you isn't necessarily right for me," she acknowledged now. "We're twins, but we're different people."

"So we can never be together? Is that what you're saying?"

Grace shook her head. "I don't know. I wish I did. There's no one I feel closer to than you, Connor. But I never felt comfortable on the Diablo. And I know you could never feel at home aboard the Nocturne, or here at Sanctuary."

"But you do feel at home? On that ship of Vampirates and here?"

She shrugged. "Not at home exactly, but as though I'm meant to be here. I'm meant to be with them."

Connor's eyes widened at that.

"I know," she said, squeezing his hand again. "It's hard to understand."

He shrugged. "I don't see why it should be. After all, our mother is here, isn't she? She was on board the ship, and then she came here, traveling within the captain's body somehow. It sounds weird when you try to put it into words, but I saw it ... saw her ... with my own eyes."

"Yes," Grace said, her eyes bright with the image of their mother sitting up and smiling at her. Her beautiful mother, with her emerald green eyes and long auburn hair, opening her arms and drawing the twins into a hug. "She was just as I always knew she would be," Grace said. "Just like in my dreams."

Connor leaned over to rest his head against Grace's. "Maybe that's all this is. Everything you and I have been through since the shipwreck. A dream, one we're dreaming together."

Grace smiled and snuggled in closer to her brother. Shutting her eyes, she allowed herself to retreat into her memories of happy times in the lighthouse. But it wasn't long before her restless mind offered a fresh thought. "How did you find the climb up the mountain last night?"

"What? Oh, that. Nothing to it," Connor said. "A bit of a hike, but you know me. Super fit and all that. Besides, there was a full moon. It was almost like daylight out there." He turned toward her. "Why do you ask?"

"We had the most arduous journey up here," she said. "The captain, Lorcan, Shanti, and I. It was so dark, and of course we had to lead Lorcan because he couldn't see back then. Shanti lost her footing and almost fell. And just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, it began to snow. The path was so steep. Didn't you think so?"

Connor shook his head. "It was like a country road. Maybe you took a different route. It's funny, though, I only ever saw one path at the foot of the rock."

"Yes," Grace agreed. "Yes, but it must be like Olivier told me once. That the mountain changes. That everyone makes a different way up here."

"Who's Olivier?" Connor asked.

Grace paused, remembering Mosh Zu's former lieutenant. He had been by turns indulgent and irritated with her, his moods as changeable as the weather. And he had betrayed his master, thinking that Sidorio would promote him, only to find himself betrayed and rejected by the renegade Vampirate. "He was no one you need to know about," she said at last. "He's gone now."

Connor slipped off the chair and drew himself to his feet once more. "How much longer do you think we'll have to wait to see her again? We just got to say hello to her and then they took her away."

"They have to be careful," Grace answered. "She was one of the lost souls traveling with the captain. You saw how fragile they were, how bewildered at being set free."

"Is she our mother, Grace, or some kind of ghost?" He looked at his sister in confusion. "She reached out her arms to us. She kissed us. I didn't imagine her, did I? She was as much flesh and blood as you or I."

Grace stood up and went over to him. "I don't have any answers for you, Connor. I wish I did. All I know is that Mosh Zu will do what is best. Until then, we just have to wait."

"I'm not very good at waiting," Connor said, starting to pace once more.

"We've waited for her for fourteen years," Grace said. "What's a few more hours?"

Connor smiled. "I guess when you put it like that ..."

As he spoke, there was a knock at the door. It opened and Mosh Zu's assistant, Dani, poked her head around it. As usual, her face was impossible to read.

"Mosh Zu asks you to join him in his meditation room," she said.

"Is our mother with him?" Connor asked. "Is she all right?"

Perhaps Dani didn't hear his question. She had already begun walking briskly along the corridor.

"She'd tell us, wouldn't she?" Connor turned to Grace. "If something was wrong?"

Grace could hear the rising panic in her brother's voice. "Come on," she said, reaching out her hand for his.

Grace felt her own heart beginning to race. She was every bit as anxious as Connor at the thought of what lay ahead.

3THE QUEEN OF HEARTS

"So, what does it take to get a drink around here?" Lady Lola Lockwood asked, her amber eyes skimming from Moonshine to Barbarro to Trofie Wrathe.

The three Wrathes were rendered speechless by the sight before them. Lady Lockwood and her two companions, Marianne and Angelika, were all smiling, revealing three pairs of exceedingly long canine teeth that seemed to get longer and sharper the more you stared at them.

Moonshine, who had been awed initially by the trio's beauty, found his feelings toward them rapidly changing.

"We're thirsty," said Marianne, stepping toward him.

"Um, what ... about ... some ... whiskey?" he faltered, reaching out for the decanter. But Marianne caught his arm and shook her head. "Can't drink whiskey. Doesn't suit my constitution." With that, she snaked her other arm around Moonshine and clutched him tightly to her, her mouth perilously close to his ear.

"Set him free!" commanded Barbarro. But Marianne seemed not to hear him. Barbarro turned to Lady Lockwood. "You, madam. You're their leader. Tell her to release my son."

Lady Lockwood smiled and shook her head. "She's just thirsty. And surely it's only courteous to offer a stranger a drink of welcome on a chill night such as this?"

"A drink of welcome?" Barbarro snarled. "Or a drink of blood?"

"Now you're talking!" said Angelika, stepping forward and snaking herself around the captain. He raised his arms and sword to defend himself, but he was taken by surprise at her strength. In her clutches, he was frozen, though whether by his own fear or some magic, it was hard to tell. Trofie watched in wonder as Angelika removed the sword from Barbarro's fist as easily as a splinter, and tossed it away out of reach.

She looked from side to side, to where her son and her husband stood helpless in the clutches of these women, these demons. What should she do? All normal rules of attack and defense seemed to be obsolete. Or were they? Trofie turned to Lady Lockwood. "Perhaps we can make a deal," she began.

At first, she thought Lady Lockwood might be too caught up in her own blood lust to answer her, but then she spoke. "A deal? What kind of deal?"

"Whatever it takes," said Trofie. "If it's blood you're after, then I can easily find some crew members for you."

Lady Lockwood smiled at that. "It's a charming offer, my dear, but blood is rather like wine. When you've supped on superior vintages, you lose your taste for cheap plonk."

"So," said Trofie, "is that why you came here tonight? To claim the blood of the captain and his family?"

"My, I'm impressed," said Lady Lockwood. "There aren't many who could voice such a thought without plummeting into hysteria, yet you remain as cool as a glacier. It's clear to see who wears the trousers on this ship."

"Thank you for the compliment," said Trofie, "but if you simply came with the intent to maim us, then let's not draw this out any longer."

On either side, Marianne and Angelika nodded at the thought, their grip on their two captives tightening. The fear currently being experienced by Barbarro and Moonshine was all too evident on the faces of both father and son.

"Wait!" commanded Lady Lockwood. Like well-trained dogs, her two comrades turned at their leader's voice. She held their gaze, then focused once more on Trofie. "You're as beautiful as they say," she said, running a finger over the curve of Trofie's cheekbone. Trofie remained as still as a waxwork at Lady Lockwood's ominous touch.

"I will make you a deal," Lady Lockwood announced. "I told you before that I like to acquire pretty things. Rare and valuable things."

As she spoke, her eyes never left Trofie's for a moment. "As thirstFy as I am -- as thirsty as we all are -- I'm sure we could be distracted by a little treasure. What can you offer me, I wonder?" Lady Lockwood's bright eyes twinkled.

"Whatever it takes," said Trofie, unflinching. "Whatever it takes for you to let my son and husband go free with their lives."

"Well," Lady Lockwood said, raising an eyebrow. "You really do believe in family values, don't you?"

"Above all else," said Trofie.

Lady Lockwood reached out a hand once more to Trofie, but this time her fingers landed on the ruby necklace that dazzled like flame about Trofie's swan-white neck. "What a beautiful necklace," Lady Lockwood said. "And I'm quite sure it's unique."

"Yes," said Trofie. "Unique. Flawless. And worth a mint. If you want it, it's yours."

Lady Lola shrugged. "Why not? It's a little gaudy for my taste, but I know someone on my crew who would adore it."

BOOK: Vampirates 4: Black Heart
11.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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